A review of recent big books on the Bible, Part Two: John Piper

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11/08/2016 by Chris Green

full_a-peculiar-gloryA Peculiar Glory: How the Christian Scriptures Reveal Their Complete Truthfulness John Piper (Wheaton, Crossway: 2016)

So I said that there was an essay missing from the big D.A. Carson book. That was a bit cheeky of me, because when I started reading it and surveyed the contents I thought it was pretty complete – and it is, really.

Except that as John Frame points out in his commendation, John Piper has done what, probably, only John Piper can do, which is to write on the experience of reading scripture as the Word of God.  That is, not the intellectual task, but the heart experience and response – how do we account for the fact that we encounter God in these pages?  How do we account for the fact that we know  have, and that our hearts are, in Wesley’s terms, ‘strangely warmed’?

Piper’s approach is exactly as you would expect – a thoughtful, passionate, exploration of the fact that the Scriptures bear witness to themselves, and their author.  It moves around the Jonathan Edward’s territory of affections, looks at the self-authenticating nature of scripture, and although is one sense is predictable looking at God’s glory in scripture, is quite remarkable in the way he sees God’s peculiar glory, as Majesty in Meekness.

Where he is compelling, therefore, is getting us out of an arid little worry about the circularity of reasoning, in that scriptures testify to themselves, and into an encounter with God.  And out of a nervous reliance on the balance of probability in terms of archaeology and so forth, into a glorious certainty.  Not that Piper is against rational defence and apologetics, but as he puts it, ‘My concern…has been to find a way to have a well-grounded confidence in the truth of the Bible based on evidence that a person can see, even if he has no historical training and little time to devote to rigorous study’ (167).

At times this book looks like many others on my shelves, when Piper considers ‘do we have the very words of the Biblical authors?’  But even there, the way he answers, and his account of canon and its construction, is unique, fascinating, and God-honouring.

Is this the only book you’ll need on the doctrine of scripture?  Definitely not – and in any case, you’d want one that dealt wth something widely recognised, like the Chicago position, rather than the doctrinal statement Piper’s church has developed.  Occasionally this book has a quite local flavour.  But that is also its powerful charm, because as always Piper has brought something special to our Christian discourse.

I honestly know of no other book like this, and I strongly recommend it.

Next time, not so much.

One thought on “A review of recent big books on the Bible, Part Two: John Piper

  1. […] use it.  So it is a very ‘Edwardsian’ book, and wonderfully rich for all that. I reviewed it here. There’s a second volume coming out soon – I can’t […]

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